18 October 2019

New Rules On Septic Tanks

New rules come into force on 1st January 2020.

Homeowners using Septic tanks, have, since 1st January 2015, been allowed to discharge into surface waters by the Environment Agency (EA), as long as they did not cause pollution.  This was an exemption granted by the EA to small domestic sewage tanks which discharged to the ground and into surface waters.

However the EA gave such home owners a deadline until 1st January 2020, to upgrade, so, all homeowners with septic tanks which discharge directly into surface water no longer qualify for the exemption.

Since 1st January 2015, there is an absolute prohibition for newly installed septic tanks to discharge into surface waters.

On the other hand if a homeowner with a septic tank discharges to the ground, it is still possible for them to qualify for the EA exemption provided that the homeowner meets all other criteria as specified by the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 (the EA regulations).

Under the same Regulations septic tanks must comply with the rules set out in a document entitled General binding rules for small sewage Discharges issued by the EA.

As stated above, If you as a property owner or as a tenant responsible for a septic tank that discharges directly into surface water you must upgrade your septic tank if you are an “operator”.  This is defined as an owner of a property that uses a septic tank, shares it with at least one other property (ie a neighbour) or you are responsible for it under a written agreement (such as a tenancy agreement of any kind).

The crucial point is, that if you are buying and or selling a property with a septic tank before the deadline of 1st January 2020, the obligation to comply with the new EA rules should be addressed between the buyer and seller in the sale contract, prior to exchanging contracts.

You can find the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2016 and the General Binding Rules: for small sewage discharges by using the following website: www.legislation.gov.uk

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